Research into Brain Training:
How Do You Know Brain Training Works?

As we continue into the 21st century, scientific reseaand medical rch continually proves time and again that brain training rewires the brain and creates life-changing results. It proves neurons that ‘fire together, ‘wire together’ to change and develop through brain training (mental skills training) the cognitive processing skills required for efficient learning.

Hallmarks of Brain Training

The hallmark of a good brain-training program isn't whether it simply improves a person's ability to do the specific mental tasks in the training, but whether it also boosts other cognitive skills and transfers to learning and other tasks. Alvaro Fernandez, chief executive officer of SharpBrains says proper cognition transfer "only happens after more than 15 hours of training and where each session lasts at least 30 minutes."

The following are just some of the MANY studies proving brain training works because of its neuroplasticity:

Carnegie Mellon University Reading Study

Scientists Timothy Keller and Marcel Just of Carnegie Mellon University studied the working brains of “good” and “poor readers.” They have proven from brain imaging that poor readers' brains are wired to learn differently than ‘good readers.’  The left brain image showed the area of compromised white brain matter (blue area) among poor readers relative to good readers at the beginning of the study. The center brain image showed the area where the structural integrity increased (red/yellow area) among poor readers who received intense training.

The results concluded intense training for ‘readers’ makes it possible to rewire the brain so that reading becomes faster and easier than ever before. "Showing that it's possible to rewire a brain's white matter has important implications for treating reading disabilities and other developmental disorders, including autism," said Just, the D.O. Hebb Professor of Psychology and director of Carnegie Mellon's Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging (CCBI).

Harvard University,
Dr. John Ratey Quote:

“Like a set of muscles,the brain responds to use and disuse. For the first time, we are learning to see mental weaknesses as physical systems in need of training and practice.

Journal of the American Medical Association Memory and Reasoning Study

In a study published in 2006 in JAMA, a clinical trial involving 2,832 older adults concluded that "cognitive training" — such as identifying patterns in a series of letters or words — helped improve memory and reasoning skills. A more recent study of 487 adults aged 65 and older, found that people who trained on brain-fitness software for 40 hours over eight weeks noted significant improvement with memory and attention skills

Marshall Kahn, an 82-year-old family doctor in Fullerton, Calif., says he got such a boost from brain exercises he started doing at a "Nifty after Fifty" club that he decided to start seeing patients again part-time. "Doing all the mental exercise," he says, "I realized I've still got it."

The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge 

Dr. Norman Doidge, The Plasticity of the Brain (The Movie)

(Directed by Mike Sheerin. Produced by 90th Parallel Productions Ltd. in association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

Dr. Norman Doidge travelled across the country to interview pioneering researchers who made revolutionary discoveries about the plasticity of the human brain (neuroplasticity). He talks with those thought of as incurable who are now living normal lives. Those with brain damage, strokes and other neurological deficits now have the opportunity to recover. Just like the world was once thought of as flat, we now know the brain can change and rewire itself.

Bi Lingual Brains

Plasticity has been studied in the brains of bi-linguals (Mechelli et al., 2004), proving plasticity is what makes learning a second language possible (childhood to old age  through changes in the brain). Brain scans of bilingual individuals found greater gray-matter density (yellow) in the inferior parietal cortex, an area in the brain’s language-dominant left hemisphere. The density was most pronounced in people who were very proficient in a second language and in those who learned a second language before the age of five.

When the brains of musicians were studied (Gaser and Schlaug, 2003) who practiced at least 1 hour per day were compared to non-musicians, researchers found the gray matter of the brain (cortex) volume was highest in the professional musicians, intermediate and amateur musicians, and lowest in non-musicians in several brain areas.  They found that gray matter (cortex)  was highest in professional musicians

Yale and Parts of the Brain used in Reading

Yale scientists and physicians, Sally and Bennett Shaywitz, have identified the parts of the brain used in reading.  Those who know sound and words (sounds to symbols) rapidly process what they see.  The brains of people who can’t sound out words often look different on MRI pictures. There is less blood flow to the language centers of the brain and, in some cases, not much activity evident at all.  This evidence is built upon millions of dollars of research, conducted over the past 20 years under National Institutes of Health in Bethesda; Students need to understand the sounds of the English language and sound-letter relationships – known as “phonics” – before they can learn to read.

For some, this comes naturally; others must be taught. NIH studies find at least 95% of the poorest readers can learn to read at grade with the right intervention.  Contrary to these finding, 40% of school-age children remain poor readers.   NIH also says, “You can have an IQ of 145, be a great reasoner and still be a poor reader.”  

School Community Vs. Scientific Community

Unfortunately, 80% of our nation's schools do not teach reading by intensive phonics. Most schools use either use whole word method, known as whole language, or a combination of whole words and phonics.  Schools continually use out-dated traditional methods and have yet to apply comprehensive scientific research studies to curriculum.

Dragnaski Learning Abstract Study

Extensive learning of abstract information can also trigger some plasticity changes in the brain. Draganski and colleagues, 2006, imaged the brains of medical students before and after their medical exams and compared them to brains of students who were not studying for exams. The medical students’ brains showed learning-induced changes in regions of the brain where memory, learning, and retrieval occur.

Scientists are rapidly gaining more and information about the relationship between sensory perception, memory, cognition and learning how brain exercises strengthen brain functions.

Linda Karanzalis, M.S.
Learning Specialist
 

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DJ used to take so long just to copy a simple list of words. he is now doing that much more quickly. Math problems are also being done faster. Homework is taking less time. He is voluntarily trying to read TV listings and ads on boxes.
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